Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Travelling After University is not a Bad Thing

Recently CBC PEI posted an article titled Job cuts worry new graduates. PEI is losing about 8-zillion-shmillion jobs over the next two years (my own estimate) and the CBC spoke to the current UPEI student union president. He's concerned recent job cuts in both Provincial and Federal government will make it more difficult to find a job post-graduation. He also later mentions at the end of the article that his peers are settling for lesser paying jobs or, like him, will take some time to travel.

Proceed to comments. I like comments for stories that have many holes and are clearly missing information. Some of the commenters are able to fill in the gaps or offer another perspective. Opportunity to learn = good. Of course, there are also the commenters who make no sense and are disrespectful arseholes. Many commenters on this story are pffing about how the job cuts won't matter to students or say that travelling after university or college is dumb.

First brief point: job cuts are scary. Although most are supposed to be done through attrition (people retiring or choosing to leave) not all will be done that way. Not only does this decrease the likelihood of the governments hiring new staff, but those who have lost their jobs will likely also be flooding the market looking for work. More competition. Supply and demand, first-year economics, or even high school economics actually. The supply of job vacancies remains static, but the number of people wanting those jobs has increased. Thus, it is more difficult to get those jobs, more competition. I thought that was a bit more obvious. The problem is not that all those students were planning on working for the government, though I'm sure some were, but now more people will be demanding the few jobs available. As well, funding cuts likely mean fewer students hired for co-op placements leading to less work experience thus making it more difficult to secure a job after graduation.

Despite all that, the number of people discouraging travel is, well, discouraging. I'm rather biased due to multiple wonderful experiences of working in other countries. That's right, although I did travel, I worked as well. My goodness! I figure, without any backing other than many hostel conversations with travellers, that student travellers (or recent students) fall into three groups: those who go abroad for a semester of school, those taking 4 to 8 weeks off after graduation to explore and have fun on a whirlwind tour of Europe, and those who go abroad but work at the same time. I mostly associate with the third option and a wee bit of the first.

I can honestly say travelling does give you skills that are transferable to the workplace, particularly if moving somewhere to work. I'm basing this on moving to Scotland when I was 21 for 16 months, working in Florida for thirteen months right after that, and moving to France for two months a couple of years ago to take French classes. And as a quick side note, to anyone who says those adventures were a waste of money, I made more money working at Walt Disney World once I became a server than any job I have had since. Related, here is how you apply!

Skills improved by living abroad
  • Problem-solving skills - Example problem, I just arrived in a new country, can't find my way around, and have no where to live. You probably don't have you usual support network and changing your mind and trying to escape (i.e., go back home) will probably be very, very expensive. There will constantly be unknowns, like moving to any new place. It takes longer to do things, and you sometimes need to be clever to figure out the system. You're just forced to think more. Thinking more is good. (I realise not having a place to live or struggling to find something doesn't seem like a real problem, but it kinda does suck when you're living out of your backpack, sleeping on a shite hostel bed, and screw up every time you try to count change in the local currency.)

  • Talking to strangers - In the fancy schmancy business world, we like to call this 'networking'. In moving abroad, I call it speeddating for friends. I moved to Scotland with two people, one who I knew decently well (Hi Shannon!) and one who I knew well enough to say hi to in the hallways of the Kelley Building (Hi Keri!) To make friends and build any kind of social circle you need to talk to people, go outside of your comfort zone (for some people), and just talk. You go to events where you don't know anyone, in hopes of making a friend. You say yes to any social thing, because you need to meet people. I actually feel like I'm losing this skill the longer I stay in PEI because I know so many people here. After moving home from working at Disney World, I would talk to anyone with ears. Now, not so much because I sit quietly in an office all day. Good bye, skills. For many people, going to an event where you know no one is hard. Travelling alone or moving abroad forces you to do it.
  • Decision-making skills - Living in other places improved my decision making skills. Yes, it's true folks, my decision-making skills used to be even worse. It's a shock I even managed to dress myself in the morning. I blame PEI being so familiar and unchanging, sigh. When you are used to being into a routine in a familiar environment, you barely need to make decisions for everyday things, you already know the answer. Strip your world of the familiarity in terms of location and people, and sometimes the decisions are a bit harder. You're forced to do more thinking for yourself.
  • Sense of direction - Travelling on your own forces you to get really good at understanding maps and asking strangers for directions. That being said, don't get cocky, you will get lost somewhere.
  • Self confidence? SCORE! - I don't want to say, "OMG! I WENT TO EUROPE FOR THREE WEEKS AND I CHANGED SO MUCH AND I REALLY FOUND MYSELF," because if you said that, I would laugh at you. Unless you did change, i.e., got pregnant or lost your arm in a drunken fall the the Eiffel Tower stairs. In that case, it's okay, you did change, OMG. However, moving anywhere forces you to be more in charge of yourself. Simple things become challenging (try getting a bank account or cashing a cheque in Scotland, seriously, it's like trying to build an aquarium on the freaking moon) and the little successes seem to count so much more than they did at home. And afterwords they don't even seem like that big of a deal. I found a room to rent in Aix-en-Provence, France for two months which I finally secured in the Toronto Airport waiting for my flight to France, enrolled for a month of French classes, and didn't know anyone within 200 km. Being outside of or even on the borderline limits of your comfort zone is a bit daunting, but rewarding.
The end. In a related note, my triannual "Can't take it anymore need multiple month adventure!!!" anniversary is coming up at the end of the year. I can feel the need for change creeping up, and so far I'm moving at the end of the month (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and eventually in with le boyfriend (!!!*infinity). One-year lease, then... Asia. Maybe. Africa!! I dunno. JUPITER.

In conclusion: if you want to, go travel. If you have student loans, get a working holiday visa and then go travel. Passports are your friends.